As some of you know, I serve on a Library Advisory Board for SAGE/CQ Press. These boards were begun several years ago by former ZSR librarian Elisabeth Leonard when she became the market researcher at SAGE. SAGE/CQ press, for those who don’t know, is a publisher of textbooks, academic monographs, journals and online products. They focus on the Social Sciences primarily, but do have some products in primary sources, humanities and hard sciences. The board I serve on is for Reference works including their online products. Each year they bring members of their various boards out to their US headquarters in Thousand Oaks, CA for a meeting and this year I was invited to attend. This meeting allows them to get feedback on a variety of things and present ideas to librarians to get their feedback. Some of what we discussed is confidential and involves new products they are considering, but I thought I’d share a few of the things that might be of interest.
We had a wide-ranging discussion about ebooks – how are libraries buying them, what are we taking into account when doing so, what pricing models are we seeing, etc. As we are well aware, most publishers are wrestling with the ins and outs of ebooks and libraries and the discussion helped them see what libraries are doing. What was fascinating to me was the range of ebook experiences among the various libraries represented by the board members. We had an Ivy League, a massive R1 ARL, a branch campus of a massive R1, a smaller state school, a comprehensive state institution, a large intra-state library consortium and WFU. Among us there were a huge range of ebook practices and experiences from ‘we buy it all on any platform’ to ‘we are just now starting to consider it’ and ‘our default in GOBI is set to ebook and we only buy print if specifically asked’ to ‘we still buy everything in print and sometimes as an ebook, too’. Clearly there are as many approaches to ebooks as there are institutions out there and the problems the create and the problems they solve are numerous.
Another interesting discussion was about discovery services and how publishers can make their materials more discoverable. This led to a lively discussion about whether the issues of discovery lie with the publishers, the metadata, the discovery service providers or the type of content needed. It’s probably a bit of all of those, to be honest, but again it was so interesting to hear how other libraries approach their discovery services. We discussed how the document type (i.e. encyclopedia article or CQ Researcher report) would be lovely to have appear at the top of a search so students get to those good context sources before scholarly journals perhaps, but the reality of making that happen is far more complicated.
Other discussions related to new products (some of them are VERY interesting), products in the pipeline and products just being kicked around as ideas. We also talked about the larger SAGE/CQ Press areas of emphasis, pricing models and communication strategies. I love hearing about these things and do hope some that were discussed come to fruition without being a bazillion dollars :) All in all it was a great trip. I don’t love southern California but the weather was lovely, the hotel was great, dinner on the beach in Malibu did not stink and the company both from SAGE and the other librarians was really wonderful – so more pluses than minuses I guess.